Call for Papers and Attendees


The Twentieth Century As World History

University of California Multi-Campus Research Group: The UC World History Workshop

Saturday and Sunday, May 12-13 at UC Santa Cruz

The UC World History Workshop invites contributions for a conference entitled "THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AS WORLD HISTORY."

We invite both theoretical papers on problems related to conceptualizing the twentieth century as world history and papers that take innovative approaches to problems that arise in dealing with a particular case or cases.

Papers on other issues relating to world history are also warmly encouraged. Submissions from graduate students are particularly welcome.

Conference Theme

How might thinking about the twentieth century from the perspective of world history change the kinds of histories we write? For environmental historian John McNeill, the twentieth century witnessed a drastic acceleration of basic processes of environmental degradation. Others worry about whether it was short -- Eric Hobsbawm -- or long --Arrighi Emmanuel - that is, a complete disconnect from prior history, or deeply rooted in long term trends. How does the twentieth century look when viewed from the vantage point of the really long run (Big History)? The choices of frame in some sense predetermine the narratives they generate. Thinking about the ways we frame the history of the twentieth century may provide a stimulating envoi for our deliberations

A second possible task for a world history of the twentieth century is to begin to map large scale processes of change at the global level, the better to assist us reconceiving of regional, national and local histories. Does it make sense to search for central structural and conjunctural determinants of change that are specific to the twentieth century? Was the end of colonial empire a significant element in this larger transformation, and if so how? Which was more important from the vantage point of a world history of the twentieth century: that it was a period of majors wars, revolutions and holocausts? or that the population of the planet increased from 1.6 billion to 6.2 billion? What is the relationship between these two statements?

On the other hand (another target for debate) might we think of the twentieth century as the melt-down of global narratives, and the assertion of transnational networks and organizations (economic, cultural, political) that either (one hypothesis) lead to the assertion of greater disciplining narratives (the world economy knows what's best) or (alternate hypothesis) the impossibility of such narratives.

Finally, where do regional entities (to continue a line of reflection from our February meeting) fit in? How can recent innovations in the social sciences and humanities (e.g. network theory, post-colonial theory) help us in creating, assessing, and using new approaches and units of analysis? How can our units of analysis reflect the different spatial boundaries experienced by different classes, genders or other groups within societies? Let the games begin.

Descriptions of proposed papers (or panels) should be sent by email to Terry Burke ( by Friday, April 6th. People interested in attending without submitting a paper should contact the same address.